It was actually the title of the book that swayed me, it’s a sentiment that I have expressed myself to clients, you can never be sure about people, sometimes they surprise you. In a good way (acknowledging also that sometimes they surprise me not in a good way).

So what does Geoff Colvin have to say about the future of machines taking over our work? Of coming to terms with the fact that many tasks, even those high-value tasks like legal advice can be to a great extent be better done by machines?

He says (and I find this reassuring):

The answer lies not in the nature of technology but in the nature of humans. Regardless of what computers achieve, our greatest advantage lies in what we humans are most powerfully driven to do for and with one another, arising from our deepest, most essentially human abilities—empathy, creativity, social sensitivity, storytelling, humor, building relationships, and leading. This is how we create value that is durable and not easily replicated by technology – because we’re hardwired to want it from humans.

This book talks about some of the fundamentals of being human; creativity, social connection, storytelling and empathy. All of these are the qualities that I have brought to the more left brain, order and linear type of jobs that has made me different from most of those who do these roles and have made me successful at doing them in a creative industry.

I learned that getting back in touch with my creative side is not going to do me any harm. My word for this year is #connecting, and the focus of this book is all about the social skills that humans will need to be good at in order to continue to add value in the future working world when machines have become better at many of the jobs that we currently do.

I remember quite vividly a coffee meeting with a person who was a potential employer. The man said that as he read through my resume and was coming to the last page, where qualifications are typically listed he was expecting to see an Accounting or Business degree of some description and was a bit taken aback at the Fine Art degree in Painting. I had a great time at uni and loved painting, still can spend many more hours in a gallery than any of my family can tolerate. It’s a bit of a winding road to where I am now, but there’s a kind of logic to it.

Reflection to connection

I have been reflecting recently on what drives me. What am I enjoying about what I do – because it’s the WHY that gets you out of bed and it’s the WHY that engages others and connects us as humans on a level that doesn’t even have language. And it really is that creative and social piece of being human that will be to our advantage over the machines says Geoff Colvin.

Beauty and function – it’s the great design challenge.

Making things that work well and also look incredible. This is my idea of nirvana in a way, it’s a place where the practical side of me that the guy was expecting to have done an accounting degree and the hedonistic part that did something as non-functional and cerebral as painting meets. It’s the hiking boots in my wardrobe right next to the stilettos.

So it’s all about #connecting. Working cooperatively, storytelling, empathising, creative problem solving and relationship building.

So back to Humans are Underrated…

What did I learn from this book?

A lot, and some of these things sound pretty obvious. It’s not like you ‘learn’ these from a book. It’s more like reading something that resonates with your experience and opinions confirms how you want to be or should be about things.

  1. Old school connecting face to face creates deeper connection than online. Not to say that technology doesn’t improve consolidate and firm up relationships that already exist, more just that there are greater depths to meeting face to face. This is actually one of me key learnings from last year and a project that didn’t go well.
  2. Members of the best and most innovative and productive teams worked in a more egalitarian and collaborative way, that feels like my ideal way of working.
  3. Storytelling is a really important part of how people in organisations envisage themselves doing things differently. Stories can help us to create visions of what change might look like and what we don’t’ want it to look like. More on storytelling from Steven Denning here.
  4. High performing teams practice and practice and give direct and honest feedback immediately in a culture where this type of feedback is encouraged. That sounds like how I want to work.

I could go on for much longer on what’s in this book, but in the interests of staying in a place where people might actually read this we’ll leave it at four.

A worthwhile read.  If you have read it, would love to hear your thoughts, leave a comment here or over on Facebook or Twitter or if you would like to #connect face to face contact me on leoniem(at)6r(dot)com(dot)au.